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|1/6: U.S. denies Haitians protected status
Released 13 January 2009  By JACQUELINE CHARLES - Miami Herald
U.S. denies Haitians protected status
JACQUELINE CHARLES - Miami Herald
Jan. 06, 2009
The Bush administration has rejected a request by Haitian President René Préval and others to allow tens of thousands of undocumented Haitians living in the United States to stay until their homeland recovers from a string of deadly summer storms.
''After very careful consideration, I have concluded that Haiti does not currently warrant a TPS [temporary protected status] designation,'' Michael Chertoff, secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, wrote in a letter last month to Préval.
Since the resumption of deportations last month -- after a three-month reprieve -- some 28 Haitians have been returned to Haiti, Michael Keegan, a DHS spokesman said.
''We are consulting with the Haitian government to see how much they can take back within their capabilities at this time,'' Keegan said.
The denial of TPS and resumption of deportations have outraged Haitian advocates, who say they plan to take their request for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama.
TPS was approved by Congress in 1990 for foreign nationals fleeing civil war and natural disasters. After Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Washington granted several Central American countries TPS, and the designation was recently renewed.
Chertoff said he was aware of the ''tremendous damage'' the storms had caused Haiti. In the letter, he described ''various actions to help mitigate the effects of the storms'' on Haiti including the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies by the U.S. Coast Guard and the temporary suspensions of deportations.
He also mentioned several immigration-related measures that Haitian nationals and others can take to extend their stay legally in the United States.
Chertoff said that he arrived at the decision not to grant TPS after evaluating recommendations by the U.S. Department of State and the USCIS on conditions in Haiti following the four back-to-back storms that left almost 800 people dead, tens of thousands homeless and caused $1 billion in damage..
''It's incomprehensible to me that the conditions don't warrant TPS for Haiti,'' said Randy McGrorty, executive director Catholic Legal Services. ``They are not basing it on the reality of the situation on the ground but other considerations when applying the law to Haiti. But frankly, after eight years of dealing with this administration and their policy toward Haiti, one of those considerations is racism.''
''According to independent reports, the successive storms destroyed 15 percent of Hait's GDP. That's the equivalent of eight to 10 hurricane Katrinas hitting the United States in a month's period of time,'' McGrorty said.
``That is a massive blow and we are saying Haiti doesn't qualify for TPS? It just doesn't add up.''
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